Friday, June 12, 2015

The Charts ... And Another Lucky Forgotten Hits Winner!

Recently we ran a week-long, year-by-year analysis of the records that reached the #1 Position on all three of the major trade publications, 1955 - 1981.

Our research was based on the new Joel Whitburn "Chart Comparison" Book that compares, for the very first time EVER, the peak position of EVERY record to make the Billboard, Cash Box and Music Vendor / Record World Charts during this period known as "The Rock Era".

Today you'll find some of your comments from this series.  (Scroll back to Tuesday, May 26th, and read forward to catch the entire series.)

Joel agreed to pick his favorite comment and send that Forgotten Hits Reader a copy of his brand new book. (You'll find some of Joel's comments at the end of today's piece, reflecting back on how these various publications gathered their data in order to compile these charts way back when.)

If you didn't win, don't despair ... you can still pick up a copy of this EXCELLENT book (and reference tool ... we use it EVERY SINGLE DAY) through Joel's Record Research website.  (Link below)  It's an invaluable way to compare what was REALLY going on in music at the time ... rather than the very distorted view we're presented with now of "The Greatest Hits Of All-Time" thanks to the narrow-minded programming of most oldies radio today.


Even before I got to the end of today's segment  of the "Being #1" Series and the reference to having a chance to win the Chart Comparison book, I had decided to write to thank you for the series of articles.  
You obviously spent a great deal of time reviewing the Chart Comparison book, coming up with an easy to follow mix of analysis and commentary, even over the period before you got into the music yourself.  A fascinating read, and a great advertisement for the book.  
Personally, I also found the series interesting, as it ties into the latest "Rockword" crossword puzzle that I'm compiling, entitled "Did Better on Cash Box Than The Hot 100".
Mike Ogilvie
Mississauga, ON

In 1977 I was working for Warner Brothers, parent company of Atlantic Records. At least a dozen of us were having lunch when one of the salesmen came in with two records.  One was Solisbury Hill by Peter Gabriel, and the other was Feels Like The First Time by Foreigner. Keep in mind that we were all music geeks. We were asked about our opinion and unanimously we preferred Peter. The complaint about Foreigner was it sounded like everything else that wasn't disco at the time. It was OK, but nothing special. 38 years later, since Foreigner is one of those acts you hear right after radio plays the obligatory Journey song, I kinda feel the same way. 
Now having worked for record distributors for about six years, I saw and heard firsthand about some amazing stunts record labels pull. A few weeks ago I mentioned a stunt that A&M records pulled in regards to Styx. I didn't go into detail, but since you started a series on how a record gets to chart where it does, the story now fits.
For years Styx played every teen club in the midwest. Who can forget those commercials for Dex Card's Wild Goose clubs? They released four albums on Wooden Nickel that went nowhere until some jock, and I don't think it was a local jock, came across Lady from their second album. It got them signed to A&M Records, which helped in that they had better distributorship. But it wasn't until their third LP, Grand Illusion, that Styx came thru for the label. But now their contract, for three albums, was up ... and other major labels came calling, notably Columbia. A&M's argument for resigning with them was that Columbia had Springsteen, Streisand, Neil Diamond, Paul Simon, etc., and Styx wasn't in that tier of performers, yet. So if it comes down to Babs, or Styx, they're gonna use the promo dollars on Babs. To prove their point, the first two Styx albums had re-charted and the Grand Illusion regained its bullet. A&M argued that we're working our asses off for you and it's paying off.  Dutifully impressed, Styx signed a new deal. What happened was A&M shipped 25,000 albums to each of their distributors, 250 - 300K. There weren't any preorders for that amount, nor was A&M expecting it. But it was more than adequate enough to get the releases back on the charts. Three months later A&M took the excess back, no questions asked. To be fair, A&M did come thru for the band. Not counting a greatest hits package, their next four studio albums went top 10 or better.  
As an LP and 45 buyer, I sat in on numerous sales meetings where various label reps would give a speech about how they thought the next album by so and so would put them over the top. So our sales people were urged to work the record stores, call in favors, call into radio stations, etc., to create a "buzz" for a record. There were record stores all over the country that would report to the various radio stations as well as the trades. You'd give some of the kids some promos, t-shirts, concert tix, if they said the new Charlene record was one of the top 10 selling singles. Of course the store owner would get to fly to Jamaica in January to see some unknown reggae artist. No one asked questions if the woman he was with was his wife. One week it's top 10, then top five, then top three, until it was certain the record was a dud, or a smash. Sometimes a label would deliberately send defective records just to screw over an artist. Sometimes they'd send a rep to clubs where there were a lot of kids and sell directly to the public, and keep the money for themselves, but still reporting it as a sold record. Motown was famous for that. Jack Levin

Interesting series you wrote about the No. 1 records on the three national trades. While I didn't agree with many of your assessments of what makes for a deserving No. 1, you certainly started a worthy discussion, and I do agree that it's mind-boggling that some of those records did NOT make the top of at least one of the magazines' lists. (How did Record World possibly explain not having "How Deep Is Your Love" at No. 1?)
-- Stephen Elders  

Having done something similar with Australian top 40 charts, I found between 1956 and 1990 there were 1500 songs that hit in one of these cities but not the other (3000 altogether) 
Brian Bell 
Glenbrook NSW 
I would LOVE to pick up a Whitburn-type documentation of the Australian charts to add to my collection and database.  Are you aware of such a publication?  Or do you have this information available?  Please let me know.  Thanks, Brian!  (kk)  

Dear Kent,
Thanks for your series on #1's. 
One of the reasons for the differences might be that Billboard for most of the time included radio airplay in their charts for all positions ... only between 1968 and 1973 were the Top 50 was purely based on sales. Cash Box and Record World for most of the period didn't include airplay in their calculation as far as I'm aware. I do believe Cash Box was purely sales based until the late 70's and Record World based at least the top of the chart on sales only.
This could explain also the big difference for a novelty record like Mr. Jaws or the spoken word record Americans. For both of them I can imagine that radio stations might not plat them too much.
Living in Europe where charts were sales based until the 90's, a sales based chart seems a better reflection of the popularity. 
Kind regards,
Bauke de Vries
I've always heard that Billboard's charts were based on an accumulation of sales and airplay.  (Early on they offered deejay charts, jukebox charts, best sellers, etc., so I think they had been geared up for this before rock and roll took over the airwaves.)  Cash Box, on the other hand, was more based on sales, I believe.  (Perhaps Joel Whitburn can clarify this a bit better for all of us.)  Record World?  I rarely ever saw a copy ... Billboard and Cash Box seemed to be the main two back in the day.  I know there were others ... Radio and Records ... even Variety published song charts at one point ... who knows, maybe Joel will take us down THOSE routes one of these days!!! (kk)   

CONGRATULATIONS to Bauke de Vries of The Netherlands ... 
Joel Whitburn selected YOUR email as the winning entry for a copy of his new Chart Comparison book.
The reader who will be awarded a copy of my “Comparison” book, it will be Mr. de Vries.  Billboard’s “Hot 100” chart was the first national chart to combine sales and airplay into its calculation of the top 100 songs each week.  He made that point, so I think he deserves the award. 
Again, another good series, Kent! 

FYI, this was a damn good piece. 
However, TIME OUT on the field!
The Sunday list of #1 songs during the mid to late 60's seemed hopelessly inadequate. The Monkees lackluster "I'm a Believer" turns up at 3, while so many Rolling Stones classics just never found their way to the top of the mountain. This confirms what I have been saying for 40 plus years ... the 60's were magical, but truly great and diverse rock 'n roll was often overshadowed by the bubble gum junk. It hurt me to see a list that didn't include Spirit, The Chambers Brothers or the Stones' "Let's Spend The Night Together."
Really, this top 200 list insults those of us who were diggin' Velvet Underground in 1966 ... "I'm Waitin' For My Man."
I am going to provide you with my own top 200 list of the best songs of the mid to later 60's!!! Naturally, I'll tick people off but, hey, that's show biz.
You game?
Chet Coppock
Author: Buffone: Monster of the Midway-due out in late July 

Keep in mind this list only shows records that reached #1 on the national charts ... and "I'm A Believer" was HUGE ... eight weeks on top in Cash Box, seven more in Billboard and an additional five weeks in Record World. 
Artists like Spirit and The Chambers Brothers, both of whom produced classic '60's hits to be sure, never even came close to topping the charts.  (Spirit's biggest hit "I Got A Line On You" peaked at #25 while The Chambers Brothers did a little better, reaching #11 on all three major charts in 1968. 
The Rolling Stones had SEVEN #1 Records in the '60's, the biggest of which (by far) was "Satisfaction", logging eleven weeks on top of the collective heap between the three trades.  "Let's Spend The Night Together" was the B-Side of "Ruby Tuesday" (which also reached #1 in all three publications) ... but back then each side of a record was listed separately.  As such "Let's Spend The Night Together" (banned on any number of stations at the time) only peaked at #28 in Cash Box ... it didn't even make The Top 40 in Billboard or Record World. 
As for The Velvet Underground, that truly was an "acquired taste" ... they never hit the charts at all!!! 
I don't know if I could narrow down my list of '60's favorites down to just 200 ... (although radio seems to have no problem narrowing down "the greatest hits of all time" to about 300 tracks!) ... and ALL of our lists would vary drastically, I'm sure.  (I, for one, LOVED The Monkees back then ... and for awhile there, they were out-selling The Beatles"!)  But hey, I'm always up for a new controversy so bring it on!  (In fact, I'm kicking around one of my own which we may launch next week!)  kk   

On your point below concerning TOP 500 or 1000 songs ... YEARS ago I gathered all the BILLBOARD chart data for the chart paths of songs that hit the TOP 50 on their publication.  I then devised a points system that 'ranked' those songs based on their chart paths. (Essentially, I gave 210 points for a week at # 1, and 1 point for a week at # 50, with a sliding scale between those 2 positions.)  My focus was on the 1960's, but I have this data from about 1957 - 1988. 
Recently, I have been entering a list on my computer of the "TOP SONGS of the 1960's."  I take it from the biggest single hit (which you likely can guess ...) which had in excess of 5,000 points on my system down to 300 points.  That is about the TOP 1600 singles of the 1960's. 
It has a number of flaws that I've never been able to completely work out to my own satisfaction.  
Biggest among these is the 'imbalance' in years.  By this I mean there was FAR MORE competition is some years (1964 - 1967) than others (1960, 1968 and 1969).  This led to 'shorter' time periods on the chart for the former years, and thus more weeks (and more points) on the charts for the latter.  Thus, there appear to be 'more bigger hits' from certain years than others. 
I also penalize those songs which had chart runs partly in 1959 and 1960, and partly in 1969 and 1970, by counting only those weeks between January 1, 1960 and December 31, 1969. 
At present, I have about the TOP 750 songs entered on my computer and can share that list if you'd like. 
Many of us have tried to rank the hits over the years, including several successful books that have been published on this topic.  Each applies its own methodology of assigning point values in some type of weighted descending order and, essentially, the results come out reasonably close to being the same.  My idea of listing the top 500 or 1000 #1 Records was a very simple method ... just COMBINING the weeks spent at #1 in all three major trade publications between 1956 and 1980. 
As for your comment regarding an 'imbalance" due to variance weeks spent on the charts due to the trends of the time, this has been a point of contention of mine for quite some time.  This is why I have always suggested a "hit index ratio" that takes the total points accumulated divided by the weeks spent on the charts in order to determine a relative popularity factor that would allow you to compare the hit impact regardless of time or trend.  (The downside of this ... and we will always find a downside to ANY method we come up with ... is that it makes a record like "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa!" or "Harper Valley PTA" amongst the very biggest hits of all time simply because they SKYROCKTED up the chart in a short few weeks and then dropped off to oblivion once the novelty wore off.  I just get tired of comments like "Mariah Carey is bigger than Elvis" or "Garth Brooks is bigger than The Beatles" simply because of one single chart accomplishment that distorts all reality as those who were there know it.  (As stated before in this column, I don't recall ever seeing 13 year old kids walking around wearing fake Mariah boob cleavage or receding hairline Garth Brooks wigs.  Elvis and The Beatles transcended ALL of their musical achievements by influencing the entire world in the way we looked, the way we thought and the way we grew and expanded our horizons as human beings.  This is taking nothing away from Mariah or Garth ... they're both exceptional artists ... and they both sold a boatload of records ... but they did NOT turn the world on its collective ear in the process.) 
The other night we were watching a 51-year-old episode of "The Fugitive" and during the commercial break they announced that "Two Broke Girls" was coming to that same television station this fall.  I couldn't help but wonder aloud if, 50 years from now, folks would be gathering around their tv sets to watch old episodes of "Two Broke Girls" ... somehow, I just can't believe this will be the case! 
In any event, we may still do "The Top 1000 #1 Records Of All-Time" somewhere down the line ... based on the accumulated totals derived from all three charts ... and, honestly, I believe this will be a very viable countdown ... who knows, maybe we can even turn it into a radio program.  (Any willing partners out there if we do all the legwork???)  Radio doesn't offer a lot of "calculated countdowns" anymore ... and I think this could be a good one, offering a wide variety of styles and artist spread out over a 25 year period.  Meanwhile, we'll have to deal with these lists as we see them (and grit our teeth when appropriate.)  kk

This week's Number One series has been quite interesting. Today's 1970 Super Chart is packed with a wonderful mix of great music. We've sat here and gone through this entire chart and marveled at what a great collection of tracks appear on this list. So sad that only about 20% of these are ever played by our local oldies station. When was the last time you heard Tome Jones's "Daughter of Darkness" on the radio? 

David Lewis  
Believe it or not, since Me-TV-FM signed on here, I've heard it quite a few times ... along with several other long forgotten Tom Jones tracks.  I can't wait for these guys to start streaming so that others on the list can enjoy it too. There doesn't seem to be a day that goes by where I don't hear one or two complete surprises.  The other day I heard "Virginia" by Bill Amesbury, a #11 Hit here in Chicago that topped out at #38 on the national charts.  We've featured it a few times before in Forgotten Hits and have it posted on the site again today.  (Amesbury is probably more famous for his sex change operation than for his hit record!)  I always loved this one!  (kk)

WOW!!!!!! A great list of # 1's indeed. But I'm bummed that The Tears of A Clown by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles didn't make the cut ... 
Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the compilation of HITS!  As always thanks for all you do for all of us music junkies.   
Petey G

Does Randy have a book or web site featuring all the super charts? Must have been a ton of work.
Mark the Shark   

Hey Kent, 
I'm sure you've been asked this question a million times - but seriously, where can I get ALL of Randy Price's amazing Super Charts.  Tell me he's putting a book or a website together with all that data?  I want to see them! 
We've been looking for a home for these for several years now ... ever since we came up with the concept really.  SO many people have expressed an interest in seeing the whole collection.  It truly does provide a cross-section of ALL of the research done at the time used to establish each individual list.  (Hey, maybe after he finishes publishing all of the Cash Box and Record World decade charts, we can persuade Joel Whitburn to help us with this!)  Sirius / XM Radio even talked to us at one point about programming special countdowns designed around these charts.  I thought it'd be great if they would fund this project and then we could sell copies of the book through their service ... but that never went any farther than the discussion stage either.  (To tell you the truth even I don't have a complete collection!  I came up with the original concept years ago ... but then Randy did ALL of the heavy lifting, scouring thousands of pages of data, making repeated trips to The Library Of Congress to find copies of published charts he didn't have in his own collection, talking to several folks in the industry and hitting places like eBay daily trying to find them all.  At one point I hooked him up with Joel Whitburn, who was also missing some of the Music Vendor / Record World charts ... and between the two of them they were able to assemble the most complete collection of charts anywhere ... all the more reason I hope that Joel will some day help us launch this project to the fans.  (I understand his ties to the three major publications ... but once all of that data is published and made available, this just might make the next "hot product" for Record Research to sink their teeth into.  Never say never!) 
Developing a website around these charts is always an option ... but at this point I'd sure like to see the people involved with developing this project rewarded in some fashion for all their efforts.  I'll bet he's got THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of hours devoted to this!  (kk) 

Kent ... 
Just got back in my office from a nice long holiday weekend.  I’ve got a busy stretch ahead as I’m presenting Johnny Mathis with a special Billboard presentation later this week at his concert at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater; then two of Billboard’s chart managers are coming here along with the president of Atlantic Records for a close-up tour of my Record Archive and some other interesting business.  Then, next week my school is inducting me in the fine arts Hall of Fame with some celebrities on hand including Andy Hurley of Fall Out Boy who went to the same school as I did and was inducted two years ago.  And, finally, we’re behind the 8-ball in getting two new music books introduced to the world.  Time is just flying by way too fast and it just seems harder and harder to keep up with all the demands of running a business at full throttle.
While I appreciate your Comparison Book discussion, I have to tell you that I am completely partial to Billboard, because I have been to their chart department and seen them in action pulling in data from all across the nation.  I have also been to the offices of George Albert and Cash Box – very quiet indeed.  You need only answer one question:  how did Wayne Newton’s “The Letter” hit #1 in 1992?  A commercial single of it does not exist.  It did not make Billboard’s or Record World’s Top 100 or “Bubbling Under” charts!  
As far as Record World goes, the editor and chart director, Michael Sigman, called me and thought it was funny that I was publishing a book on their charts and he was writing a story for a newspaper about his time at Record World.  I told him to make sure he sent me a copy, which he did.
Here is a small excerpt from Sigman’s story:  
“When I took over the editor’s desk at Record World in the fall of 1972 our charts sucked.  The research staff comprised two smart, hard-working, thoroughly untrained staffers.  The methodology was primitive: check out the previous week’s Billboard; call a tiny fraction of the nation’s important radio stations and retailers; collate a stack of mailed-in playlists and sales reports.  A few hours of educated guesswork later and voila, the charts were a fait accompli.”   If Record World’s charts lacked credibility, Cash Box’s weren’t much better.  Rumors swirled about the correlation of ads to bullets.  And Billboard, with its massive resources, was widely known as the bible of the industry.” 
I think Sigman pretty much hit the nail on the head.  “Billboard’s massive resources”, and, of course, the other trades using them as their first reference does rank Billboard, unquestionably, as the all-time #1 music trade.  I could go on and on about this and other factors, but I’m leaving it at this ... Billboard was regarded as "the bible of the industry" for good reason ... the other publications did their best to emulate them ... but paled drastically in comparison.  
I’ve worked with many publishers, editors and chart directors at Billboard, all of whom were hard working, honest and well respected gentlemen within the music industry.  I’ve always had and still have complete trust in their charts! 
Joel Whitburn